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Kennedy: Historical figures shouldn’t be judged based on today’s standards | COMMENTARY

As I watch the evening newscasts I shake my head in confusion and dismay at the wanton destruction of historical statues and monuments. I hear those who have taken it upon themselves to be the arbiters of who does and doesn’t deserve to be memorialized give their reasoning for the destruction, and I wonder how they came to their conclusions.

It seems like those demonstrators want anyone who is memorialized to fit their version of a perfect human being. As far as I know, there has been only one perfect person to walk this Earth, and he was nailed to a cross nearly 2,000 years ago. Every other human, from Adam and Eve until today, is flawed in some way.

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Admittedly, some are/were significantly more flawed, i.e. Adolf Hitler, among others. Even those who led mostly exemplary lives had flaws. Abraham Lincoln, regarded by many as our finest president, made decisions that, by today’s standards, would be completely unacceptable. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who is admired by white people as well as Black, as it has been widely reported, showed some personal weaknesses.

Do their flaws, both professional and personal, disqualify them from being persons whom we all should try to emulate? I say no. Their good works far outweigh any negative actions.

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Yes, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, as did many of our founding patriots. Does that outweigh the fact that they were instrumental in getting our foundling nation up and running? I think not. When it comes to judging the worth of any historical figure, one must not use the moral and ethical standards of today, but the standards relative to the time in which they lived.

Christopher Columbus was probably not such a fine gentleman, but he did, for better or worse, change the course of history with his voyages. Others probably would have made the same history, but how long would it have taken, and would they have been just as ruthless? Do his actions vis-a-vis the natives that he encountered overrule the significance of his discoveries? That is a question for those smarter than me to decide, but destroying a marble statue of the man won't change history, it only removed a fine teaching tool.

G.L. Martin Jr., in his letter to the editor published in the Times on July 8, correctly stated that before the Civil War this country was considered the united STATES, and after the states that seceded were readmitted to the union we really became the UNITED States.

Civil War figures should be judged on their whole histories, not just that some of them fought for their individual states against the union. Many did some quite positive things for the country both before and after the war. Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, as I recall, was actually the Speaker of the House of Representatives for a time before the war.

The destruction and removal of “offensive” statues and memorials will not in any way change history. History is what it is and any object that portrays that history can and certainly should be used to teach the young about what it is supposed to represent and how it relates to our society of today. As has been said many times, “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” As a nation, we dare not repeat the most divisive periods in our history lest we lose what has been built over the last 244 years.

A brief word on another subject. By a major decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that a president is not above the law and can be subject to investigation and possibly indictment for crimes committed while in office. Now the New York court can delve into the tax returns and other financial records of Donald J. Trump and his businesses. I’m most interested in where his income comes from and to whom he owes money. Has he obtained loans from Russian entities, leading to his “bromance” with Vladimir Putin? Although that information will not become public immediately, the courts may allow some disclosure in the future. Unfortunately, it won’t be before the election.

Bill Kennedy writes every other Monday from Taneytown. Contact him at wlkennedyiii@verizon.net.

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